South Bend Lathe Recommended A B C Oils

South Bend Lathe A B C Oils

Most machine tool manufacturers have very specific performance standards for the care and feeding of their products to insure accuracy and long service life. In the South Bend Lathe publication; “How to Run a Lathe”, which is considered by many people to be the last word on the care and operation of the South Bend lathe, the use of “A, B and C Oils” were recommended. These are lubricants that fall into specific viscosity ranges, or have particular qualities. Judging by the amount of “survivor” South Bends on the market today, the recommended oils were more than adequate. In researching the current types of lubricants that have been developed in the last century, I found out that the oils originally called for in “the Bible” are still available, and in fact very competative in terms of performance.

I’ll be discussing only the Mobil line of lubricants, as that is what I have chosen to sell in the BlueChipStore. I chose them for availablity, quality, and cost. My reasoning was that buyers would want an ample supply of a time tested product at a fair price. Mobil lubricants fit the bill.


Lets discuss their specific applications:

A Type Oil:
Mobil Velocite #10 Spindle Oil is a light oil (viscosity of 20) that is used in the headstock, to lubricate the spindle bearings, in the apron reservoir and in the electric motor (later lathes with ball bearing motors use grease).

B Type Oil:
Mobil DTE 24 is a stabilized hydraulic fluid (viscosity of 32) that is used in the gearbox and countershaft assemblies on the underdrive, and overhead drive systems. Early back gear oil ports (marked “OIL”) will take this oil,( later ones take grease).

Type C Oil:
Mobil DTE 26 is a stabilized hydraulic fluid (viscosity of 68) that is used on the external screws and gears, tail stock ram, lead screw, and micrometer assemblies; basically most of the external rotating parts of your lathe.

Mobil Vactra #2 Way Oil:
South Bend Lathes did not classify Way oil as “D Oil”. This is my recommendation to round out “the package”, and provide the last lubricant needed for everyday use. Mobil Vactra #2 Way Oil is formulated with sticktifiers to cling to the bed ways. This is NOT a curculating oil, but a lubricant for sliding surfaces, and is used on the bed ways, cross slide, tailstock and compound ways.

At our store, we have assembled a kit of these oils specifically at the request of numerous South Bend Lathe owners, so that they would have all the specified lubricants at their disposal. I’m happy to announce that the lube kit is now available in the bluechipmachineshop store.

Click Here for a direct link to this product

Please have a look at the and let provide your special maintenance and tool needs..

The three page PDF file of the original South Bend Lathe Lubrication Chart # 6503

(Click Below for Free Download )

South Bend Lathe Lubrication Chart #6503

Thanks for looking, and hope this helps,
Mick Finch

Please have a look at the and let provide your special maintenance and tool needs..

6 replies
  1. Carlos Zaldivar
    Carlos Zaldivar says:

    When I saw your South Bend Lathe oils for sale on eBay, I thought; this guy is just packaging some cheap oils to make money. Then found your web site and browed (and downloaded, Thank you VERY much!!) much information and quickly realized that you are the REAL DEAL!!!
    Thank you again

  2. admin
    admin says:

    Well, Thanks Carlos! I appreciate that. Not to burst your bubble, but actually did start selling oil to make a reasonable profit ;-). I started the website after Ebay stopped me from making “special orders” for my customers, and the downloads just seemed like the best way to dispel alot of the disinformation that is out there. I personally don’t think there is abetter oil for the money out there, but I understand there are non-believers. I don’t claim to be the last word on the subject, but DID consult alot of very experienced machinists and gizmotologists when I was choosing the oils for this package. Almost every one of them told me something along the lines of “Yeah, you can’t do much better than Mobil oils”.
    I’m glad you found some info to download, and I hope it will be helpful. After all, thats why I put it there.


  3. Curtis
    Curtis says:

    I just bought a 1947 9 inch model B9 South Bend bench lathe (not quick change gear type) at an auction, and the lubrication label speaks only of machine oil (not automobile engine oil) corresponding to SAE 10 for the headstock bearings and the apron reservoir, and machine oil (not automobile engine oil) corresponding to SAE 20 for “General Lathe Lubrication”. I noticed that ypour chart was for 10 inch and larger SB lathes. Do you have any recommendations for these smaller lathes?

  4. admin
    admin says:


    I had never noticed that the chart didn’t include the 9 inch, which is curious. The only reason I can think of is that there was a significant number of the 9 inch lathes that came with no quick change. The basic configuration of all the lathes are similar, as is the lubrication points and schedule.
    Machine oil is for machine tools, and automobile motor oil is for (here it comes…..) automobile motors! machine tool oil contains NO detergents or emulsifiers to keep crud suspended in the oil, which allows it to fall out of suspension and into the reservoir sump. Lathes don’t have filters like car engines do. Machine tool oils also contain rust and oxidation inhibitors (R&O) and anti foaming agents. Way oil contains tactifiers to help the lubricant cling to sliding surfaces and continue lubricating. In short each oil in the ABC package that South Bend Lathe Works recommended is engineered to protect and lubricate your expensive machine tool. Some people will tell you that automobile motor oil will be just as good. I don’t happen to be one of those people. South Bend Lathe could have recommended motor oil to lubricate their products, but they didn’t, they came up with a specific lubricant for every oil point on the machine. They did that because when the right lubricants are used, the machine’s life span is extended, and operation is smoother. Ask anyone who has used both types of oil, my guess is that they will tell you that if you use the right stuff your machine will run better.

    The short answer to your question is: The ABC oils will work exceedingly well in the 9 inch lathe, as hundreds of customers have told me.


  5. Nancy Weaver
    Nancy Weaver says:

    These are some valuable pieces of information. I do understand that maintenance of these lathe machines is essential to avoid having problems or downtime. Though, you have to make sure that you use the right one and I am glad that it is very well discussed above. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  6. admin
    admin says:


    Agreed, in a production environment deferred maintenance will result in downtime. In the Home Shop scene that is less of an issue, but preservation of the owner’s “toy” is the main focus. Having the correct lubricants is important, as most of these machines are manual lube, and total loss systems. I think the average HSM type operator will over-do the lubrication on his or her machine. I probably use more oil per hour of run time than most folks, but I sleep well at night.


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